Tagged with " learning"

Keeping an Identity: Expectations of School

Over the past few weeks I had a revelation. It wasn’t the sort of revelation that hits like a ton of bricks that makes you go ‘Wow!’; it was more like walking through a deep dark forest, seeing nothing but a tiny glimmer of light, and eventually when you get to the tiny glint you find a paradise waiting there all along.

And this amazing revelation was nothing more than My perceptions and expectations of school were warped if nothing else. Generally my opinion of school was “after we do the hard work at home, she has time off to relax at school – school is boring, learning nothing new”.

You see it all started weeks back when we took Friday off, packed up to go to Brighton and London over a long weekend. As a parent, I’m a stickler for routine (a little routine), I like knowing what has to be done, by when and once it’s done it’s out of the way, we can get on with the day. Don’t worry, it’s not as if the entire day is scheduled, just some parts of the day.

Anyway, we generally have a morning time routine, in which she does some work (writing, reading and maths) and practises her cello. Usually we slack off during a holiday, although tiger mummy that I am, I do usually take along some books to carry on with a stripped down version of ‘work’.  On this Brighton trip though, we completely laid back (pretty much horizontal) and found getting back in to the routine, once we were home again, a big big struggle.

This was when I started to reassess what we were doing and why we were doing it, and I came to the conclusion that it was this great big disparity between what I expected of a  school and what was actually done in school.

Amazing as her class is, with all the loving, caring philosophies, I have found it more than a little frustrating that communication has been limited, nil, to say the least, apart from the ten minute sessions of Parent-teacher meetings.

To be fair, I have never found the need to go and tell them quite what she was capable of, writing short sentences, making lists and doing sums and times tables.

Being the typical Asian, I have not ‘rocked the boat’, kept my mouth shut, and basically done what I can from home. This included sitting with Georgia every day, working through things she is very capable of (in terms of learning) to ensure that she had some challenges, while she went to school for what seemed to be a relaxing play time, at least that is what she tells me.  (yes, I know they have this new thing called learning through play).

All this until we came back from that Brighton trip…and then nothing worked. No amount of coaxing, cajoling, bribery or threats could get her to pay attention for longer than a millisecond. Worried and frustrated, I decided to talk to her teachers (the TAs really as her class teacher was away that week) at school to see if she was doing the same thing at school. (Turned out to be a great conversation and a great deal more conversation followed but that’s for another post)

But this was when I realised: much as I liked and loved the openness, the encouragement to ask and question of the Western education system, I had seen and experienced enough to know that the issues with low achievement lay not in the methods of delivery for education, but the low, often unsaid, unverbalised expectation of children.

And this was where I fell in, I went along with the low expectations in school, figuring that I could very well just keep up the work and expectations from home. After an honest heart to heart chat with a friend, turns out my perception is completely warped.

After my chat with the TAs, Georgia came home the next day and mentioned that Mr A (the Headteacher) had been in to talk to her to ask her to read (a reading book) and ask if she knew her times tables (which she sang to him). How’s that for a quick response? I was certainly very grateful that the TAs mentioned it to the Head, who in turn took an interest to find out more for himself.

I had at that point, worked out that the next best thing to do was to request a meeting with the Headteacher, not to complain or to moan but to talk about parenting expectations.

So that said, we requested a meeting with the Headteacher, who very kindly met us the very next day. And we learnt that

We could and should ask more and expect more of the school – communicate.

The typical ‘Asian way’ was that you kept your mouth shut and just got on. This obviously wasn’t working. So Mr A very generously explained to us, that the best way forward was really to schedule weekly meetings with G’s teacher to discuss how and what she was doing in class and how we might be able to support her with that work at home.

In his own words, he (the Headteacher) said that the 10 minutes during the termly Parent Teachers meetings was really not enough time to know how she was doing and what she was doing in school.

Realistically though, although that was the advice, and I suppose in many senses the offer, I know very well that to demand that of the class teacher takes time out of her class, and time out of her preparation for class. I was happy to meet with her and chat and after that continue the communication with written notes within her reading notebook (as a friend suggested).

It turns out that she already is in the top set for Maths but not for Literacy, which was rather surprising given that she loves writing and spelling but is not keen at all on sums. I have since worked it out though that the differences lie in the fact that the class/scheme that they use have pretty simple and basic expectations for Numeracy and are pretty advanced for Literacy (which completely baffles me – but time for that in another post).

So anyway, moving forward with better communication and feedback, it has been 3 weeks since the above took place. And where are we?

Pretty much back at square one, I think. Communication has been slightly improved, after I’d taken to writing pages in to her reading book (it is tiny!) about the things we are working on at home. However, I am still really no better off and still do not know what she has been doing in class, or if there is anything that she could be helped with.

Is this really what the rest of school is going to be like? Is there anything else, really, that I can do? Are you absolutely happy with your children’s school?

Conversations with Georgia: Hard Reading-ers

This morning as we were getting ready for school, we had this conversation.

G: James said that all the Hard Readingers have to go to the front.
Me: What is Hard Readingers? And where is ‘front’?
G: Hard Readingers are the people who read hard books, loh (Hokkien accent). We have to go to the front at Assembly.
Me: OIC.

So apparently, Georgia is a Hard Readinger. I suppose if they knew, she would also be a Hard Math-er, Hard Cello-er, Hard Writer (that one’s correct ;)) and we would be Hard Demanders!

Apr 9, 2011 - Books, Learning, Parenting, School    6 Comments

You are what you read…

If the saying ‘You are what you read’ is true, and a large part of me firmly believes so, I am seriously worried about the reading books that are being sent home from school; Georgia’s school and I imagine hundreds of other schools around the country.

If I digress a bit, and generalise an awful lot, and very much through an immigrant’s eyes, Britain and the British are well known as a country of ‘moaners’. They admit it themselves, everything and anything is always ‘dark and gloom’.

In fact, I have a lovely lovely sweet neighbour who is a lovely chap except everytime I’ve ever spoken to him, he complains about something, or other, usually the weather, which he has absolutely no control over! Nothing is ever right.

Anyway, back to those dreaded reading books. Georgia’s reading books from school are from the Oxford Reading Tree series. They’ve been around a while, I gather and I suppose in itself, from an educational perspective, they are fairly well written with step-wise developments on words with progressively more words per page.

What I just can’t get over are the stories and how depressingly negative they are! Bif, Chip and Kipper along with Wilf and Wilma, are on the whole pretty interesting characters (well, as interesting as pen-drawn characters can get). But the things they get up to and the conversations they have though are enough to make me want to slit my wrists! (No kidding!)

At The SeasideTake for example, the latest story Georgia brought home. It’s called At the Seaside.

The words of the story go like this:
The family went on holiday. Wilf and Wilma went, too.
The hotel had burned down. ‘Sorry’ said the man.
They looked at a new hotel. ‘Too expensive,’ said Mum.
They looked at an old hotel. ‘No, thank you,’ said Dad.
Every hotel was full. ‘Sorry!’ said everyone.
They had to go home. But the car broke down.
A farmer stopped his tractor. ‘Can I help?’ he said.
The farmer had a bus. ‘You can stay here,’ he said.
‘What a good holiday!’ said Wilf.

Copyrights OUP 1989

At least this book ends in a slightly more positive note, but really, surely it’s not necessary for children to have such a depressingly negative start. I must add, though, even in the books with slightly perkier or funnier stories, they typically end with ‘Oh no!’

Do you think these (infant and primary school) 5-year old’s reading books could have been a significant contributing factor to how ‘negative’ (again, gross generalisation here!) British society has become?

I’m sorry but give me Dr Seuss any day!

Apr 7, 2011 - Family, Learning, Life, Parenting, School    4 Comments

When I Grow Up…

Georgia came home with a homework sheet on Monday. In it, she was supposed to draw what she wanted to be or do when she grew up.

This was what she drew.

When I Grow Up...

I know Obstetrician is a big word for a 5-year old’s vocabulary, but it’s very specific, she’s not interested in doctor-ing children, just babies, particularly helping mummies with their babies being born.

Mar 23, 2011 - Family, Learning, Life, Parenting    2 Comments

Tadpoles – zoom!

We have been ‘keeping’ tadpoles and have watched them turn from spawn, to tiny little tadpoles. Today, Georgia found that she could make them ZOOM!

We haven’t fed them at all…Do we have to feed them? If so, what do they eat?

It’s certainly taking a lot longer for our tadpoles to turn to frogs… how come Mr Bean’s only takes 2 nights?

Mar 14, 2011 - Culture, Learning, Life, Parenting, School    6 Comments

Japan: How young is too young?

As I watch and read and read and read about the devastation, first of the earthquake in Japan, and then the tsunami, and the current nuclear reactor scares, I keep wondering if we should mention it to Georgia.

The likelihood of her ever finding out herself, at home, is somewhat, highly improbable, given that we do not watch live TV (news), or listen to the radio. If she does learn of it, it is most likely through school.

A (probably crazy academic!) part of me, sees so many ‘lessons’, geography (earthquakes, tsunamis), social studies (charity, sharing etc), history (as it unfolds!) and yet, deep down, I really don’t want to scare or worry a five-year-old needlessly.

How young is too young to be told of such events?

Keeping an Identity – Religion

When asked “What religion I am?” I often stumble and then mumble something about being culturally Buddhist – but in all honesty I find myself at odds to define that I belong to a specific religion.

I grew up with taoist influences (with Gods, Goddesses and ancestral worship), Buddhist teachings, in a Convent school and have been to Churches (Roman Catholic and a range of Protestant ones too).

We have prayed in Hindu temples, visited shrines, bowed our heads at Japanese Shinto temples and seen the inside of mosques.

Mosque Read more »

Conversations with Georgia: New School = New Friends, True or False?

You know how it is, people always say ‘Kids are really wise’, I always took it at face value (meaning I thought it might be, but never really bothered to work out why) and then today, the realisation struck me.

In their honesty and directness, children cause encourage us to re-evaluate our thoughts and opinions, indirectly it seems that they are wise, but what happens really, at least I think, is that they raise an issue, give us something to think about then we come to some realisation and attribute it to them.

This is exactly what happened today, in the car going to ballet.

It’s only a 10 minute drive to ballet, but we have often had ‘profound’ conversations, Georgia and I. Conversations between the backseat and the drivers seat…. Today it was about people, more specifically friends. Read more »

The Best Way to Learn – Make Mistakes

A Confession: I am a TED junkie. I could spend all day watching TED videos, and I have been inspired, motivated and amazed by so many of them.

Diana Laufenberg’s talk in December last year however, spoke directly to me. I have seen first hand the amazing advantages of experiential learning, and the combination of that with Constructivism (in which the learner attempts to construct their own knowledge) lends itself to a much much more powerful form of learning than one can imagine.

To be able to teach (especially the way Ms Laufenberg has) I think we, as teachers/educators need to Read more »

Feb 23, 2011 - Culture, Parenting, Philosophy, Random    4 Comments

Maths Makes Sense: My humble opinion

Maths is easy

Georgia’s school recently held an Information Evening for the parents of KS1, mainly to introduce a new Maths scheme that the school had recently bought in to – Maths Makes Sense.

Designed and developed by Richard Duune, I first heard and saw Mr Duune and his new approach to Maths teaching in a Dispatches programme on Channel 4 in early 2010. (A related Math quiz) In ‘Kids Don’t Count’, featured in typical sensational broadcasting fashion, Mr Duune was brought in to ‘turn around’ Maths instruction at a couple of schools in the South East. The programme focussed mainly on the vast discrepancy in Maths ability among students and how being perceived as a boring subject, students were unable to answer some very basic Math questions.

The new Maths Makes Sense scheme is essentially a new style of presenting mathematics based on visual aids and models to both allow children to be able to better visualise the direct link between numbers and physical objects and a new style of teachings mathematics that rely significantly on the teacher to provide the information in an engaging, stimulating and fun way.

Read more »